Tomorrow’s World Cup qualifier may not technically mean much for Italy as they take on Denmark in Group B play.
However, for the country’s soccer history it means everything.
Barring a catastrophe, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon will enter Italian soccer lore as the most-capped player in the country’s illustrious history, passing “The Berlin Wall,” defender Fabio Cannavaro.
It will be the 137th appearance by Buffon for his country, and the legend summed up his thoughts perfectly in speaking with the Italian Football Federation’s official website.
“The national team is a reference point for me, it’s the most beautiful expression of our football” said the 35-year-old. He also called the sport of soccer his country’s “most valuable export.”
Buffon has spent his entire club career in his home country, spending six years at Parma before making the switch to Juventus and appearing in 363 league matches for The Old Lady.
Buffon is the only goalkeeper ever to win the UEFA Footballer of the Year award, has been elected to the UEFA Team of the Year three times, won Serie A goalkeeper of the year a record nine times, won a World Cup in 2006 and was awarded the Golden Glove (formerly the Yashin Award) that season, and he came a spot away from winning the coveted Ballon d’Or – usually reserved for the sexier, more publicized goalscoring players – in 2006 (which he fittingly lost out to Cannavaro).
His legend was no doubt sealed in that World Cup-winning year of 2006, as he kept five clean sheets and conceded a World Cup record-low two goals all tournament (three if you include Cristian Zaccardo’s own goal), none of which came from open play.
While Italy will be trying to stave off Denmark’s charge for a World Cup qualifying spot on Friday, they will no doubt honor Buffon’s legendary contributions to his country on and off the field of play.
Oh, and in true Buffon fashion, he said, “It is an important milestone – but it will not be the last.” Expect to see the man in goal making important saves for at least a little while longer.